Every great leader requires, among other things, courage, authenticity, active listening and curiosity. Being a leader of a team and coaching each individual throughout their own personal career journey — working through the dynamic of being a manager as well as coach — requires a balancing act between meeting the needs of the individual while also supporting those of the organization. Yet embedding coaching into the fabric of team culture can create the incremental steps for true transformation for both the employee and a rich, creative and forward-looking organizational culture.

When leaders act as coaches, they enable each member of the team to visualize where they want to go, so that they can establish (and achieve) their personal and professional goals.

Most importantly, supporting your team members isn’t just about seeing them as employees: It’s about acknowledging them as resourceful and creative humans. Being aware of their wholeness is essential in coaching their potential. It brings together the good and the flawed and creates the opportunity (for both them and you, as their leader) to see their potential for limitless growth. The reward for everyone involved is a rich team culture of growth and innovation that ultimately allows each person to flourish.

When leaders act as coaches, employees’ opportunities for growth are infinite. Let’s consider how, and outline ways to begin coaching your team for future success.

Career Advancement Versus Career Potential

In organizations, there is often a greater focus placed on employees that have been highlighted as having “high potential.” They are nurtured to progress throughout their career path, maybe even earmarked as a “successor” to a leader, and are provided with the skills and tools they will need to propel them along this journey. Let’s challenge that thinking for a moment.

Coaching reframes career potential. How? What if we are looking at career advancement as the only path for development, instead of exploring the potential that each and every team member has. Using the lens of a coach, every individual has potential, and the role of a coach is to help them realize it, without an agenda.

When we lead from the role of coach, we create value for employees and the organization alike. This leads to fulfillment for the employee and puts the right people in the right roles across the organization. When we force an agenda, and we only lead from the archetype or architect, we can end up with people on career paths without a lot of intentionality. This can lead to burnout, disengagement, and lack of individual and organizational effectiveness.

Working to support career mobility for your team creates an energy and culture that nurtures talent. For example, what if by coaching a high-performing member of the team, through the power of curiosity and conversation, you discover they have an incredible passion for another function within the organization? Losing a team member so they can realize their full potential elsewhere in the business can be hard, but it’s important to allow employees the opportunity to realize their goals in whichever business function suits them best. A sign of true leadership is letting others go for their highest good.

The Freedom To Fly, the Freedom To Fail

The word “failure” does not fit into the mantle of many organizations, as leaders and their teams strive for nothing but success. But without those moments that do not go to plan, we can’t experience the richness of growth. The expression “fail fast” comes to mind — a mentality already adopted by the most recognizably innovative companies. Having the ability to course correct is the mantle of a great leader and great coach. And coaching others to do the same is incredibly important for any team.

The freedom to be courageous provides the powerful opportunity to fail and recover. Being supported by a coach or mentor during this process creates a positive learning experience. It’s the antithesis of living in fear of failure, which can be stifling, crippling and creativity-draining. Being able to explore the possibility of not getting things “right,” while being supported, creates immeasurable value, and opens doors to new ways of thinking

The coaching conversation is grounded in looking at different perspectives and trying something new, in pursuit of change and growth. And the coach is always a reassuring, encouraging force, trusting the other person, without judgement.

Leaders must deal with saboteurs head on to create a safe space for team members to “fail fast.” By allowing employees space to be less caught up on the outcome, and more focused on the journey, we create team cultures rich in innovation and confidence.

The Infinite Feedback Loop

Feedback is a gift that can be hard to receive. Managers should encourage feedback from their teams members, and team member from their managers. Feedback is not a one-way street. It’s an infinite loop to creating change, building new behaviors and adapting to what is needed in that very moment.

Coaching is a way to help employees develop new, positive neural networks that help them respond more calmly to stress and feedback. It helps them make choices more easily and access their creativity. Neuroscience supports that coaching helps change automatic habits and enables a person to find a way to forge new circuits. It rewires our very foundation.

Being able to disagree, or discuss feedback in a positive way, breeds a culture of growth and respect. Everyone can find their own answers, and surface them without judgement or fear, or evaluation, creating a workplace full of opportunity, new habits and pathways for development.

If The Great Resignation taught us anything, it’s that employees truly want to work for companies that care for them and recognize their needs.

By acting as coaches, leaders can support employees’ career development and unlock the true power of potential.